Temirlan Aigozhin – founder of Champloo, a high-end audio system with a Tube-Amplifier. The made in Kazakhstan product got recognized by Amazon and the world’s best music industry experts.
I met Temirlan a month ago at American Space where he shared his entrepreneur journey. Indeed, his story has inspired me to be more confident in what I am passionate about and believe that all the small things I do will eventually bring me somewhere big.
We talked to him about his passion for music, entrepreneur struggles, creation of the product and learning points.
Love of music
My love for music was there since I remember myself. Even in kindergarten, I used to bring my cassette with the record of Ace of Base – Beautiful Life on it, and I did my morning exercise only to this song. I believe I inherited a love of music from my dad who had a background in music.
It started off as just a “fun experience”
When I was studying at KIMEP University, I was a part of KISA (KIMEP International Student Association) where I DJ-ed at parties. At that time, I noticed how music influences the mood of people, makes us feel certain emotions. I love music. My degree wasn’t connected to music, but I knew that eventually, my career will be in this industry.
At KIMEP I was studying Finance and Marketing but I knew that it’s not something that I see myself doing in the future. I quit KIMEP to study Electrical and Computer Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Making things with my hands always gave me joy.
The beauty of a bachelor’s degree is an introduction to life. You are always hungry to learn and to make some pocket money, you don’t know what are your limits. At the university, you learn how to survive. It’s a place where you make friends and new connections, and definitely where you can find yourself. I worked part-time as a DJ at American parties and yes it’s exactly the same what you in a movie.
I had great support from my professor who noticed my strength in project management and pushed myself towards it. I knew how to make things done – to make a competitive device.
Expectations vs Reality
After returning home, I expected to work in the Oil & Gas industry as it had a huge stack of investments in developing high-tech products. In 2015 commodity industry wrongfooted by slump. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a job and I had been selling ice-cream and coffee in the park for some time.
Later I found a job at LG Electronics selling TV sets. Working there for two years I found out that Kazakhstan doesn’t produce any electronic products. We don’t even have our own produced screwdriver or a drill. That’s how I decided to create an electronic product that is Made in Kazakhstan and to sell it in a consumer-electronic market.
The power of Trust
I received an invitation to my friend’s graduation and that was the official reason why I need to go back to the US. After getting my tourist visa, I straight away called my professor and pitched him my idea and the opportunity cost. I was the dean list twice at my university and I believe because of that my professor trusted me.
Taking my chances
He sponsored my stay for six months, gave me access to the university lab, his time, connected me to the right people and I started working on my first prototype.
I have always dreamt of having a high-end stereo with a Tube Amplifier* that is affordable and is not inferior to analogs. Why tubes sound better? It’s because it is able to produce a musical, smooth, warm, loud, clear, subtle and seamless sound at high frequency because it affixes harmonic distortion. Harmonic distortion is exactly the same note, an octave above. That’s why it tricks your mind making you believe that you are at a live concert.
An amplifier, electronic amplifier or amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal. The class gives a broad indication of an amplifer’s characteristics and performance. — Wikipedia
There’re different types of amplifiers. In classes A, B and AB, the problem is lack of efficiency. Some power is wasted, and some heat up. The most efficient amp is class D because it rapidly switches the output devices between the off and on state that saves the energy, so we could put it on the battery.
The idea was to make a powerful Bluetooth audio system that is portable, compact and modern. I want to keep the voices of the departed singers and broken up bands alive with my Tube Amp stereo.
Your partners and dream team
After having my prototype and first investments, I decided to look for a manufacturer on Alibaba. Since I didn’t have time to be there physically and attend meetings directly with them, I was looking at the external design of the audio system they produce. I believe if the company invests a lot in exterior design, they spend even more for the interior. We had a conversation with one company and later have started working with them where the GM had 20 years of experience working at Microlab, the biggest audio system producers in the world.
It’s vital to have a team as you cannot know everything. I had friends, Ruslan Ni and Medet Sharipov, who believed in my idea. I strongly believe your knowledge from some courses and books will not be as comprehensive as the knowledge of an experienced person. Find a person who is an expert in that field and create a synergy as time is the most important resource you have.
I am grateful I had support from people who believed in the idea such as Amirkhan Omarov, ex-CEO of SmArt.Point co-working space who provided us a space to work and produce our prototype. We couldn’t purchase needed parts for Champloo and delivery would take us weeks. We used cords and parts of old equipment.
We were looking for investments, attending different startup competitions but all to no avail. Everyone was not ready for this type of product because not everyone could understand the technology and the potential of it. This went on for a year.
I was ready to give up on my dream and destroy all of my prototypes. I started looking for a job.
Almas Tuyakbayev, cofounder of Zero To One Labs suggested me having a final pitch to one investor. If it doesn’t work out, then you tie up with this.
I didn’t prepare for it.
Rakhat Turlykhanov who has already invested in some startups in Silicon Valley got interested in our idea. He understands the market and the potential of the electronic industry. He knows how Champloo stands out among big players in the market and we squeeze ourselves to be on TOP with them. There’s always a chance to succeed in this industry, and if you are successful in leveraging your electronic device in the US, you can make decent earnings out of it. He is a part of our team now.
In your pitch, you should say what’s the story behind, what’s the competitive edge of your product, and the uniqueness, what’s the market size. Have a clear vision, be transparent with your investors and yourself.
How COVID-19 impacted your business?
Because of the lockdown, global operations have to be temporarily paused. It’s affecting our planned launch by the end of this year on Amazon as not everything can be done virtually.
But we are not letting it get us. Many businesses are going through the process of diversification. We are currently working on building a greenhouse in Kazakhstan. This greenhouse is fully automated. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. By building different businesses, you don’t know which one will strike and will be the catalyst for the rest of your startups. Don’t give up!
Product for Amazon
Our friends from the US who are based in Kazakhstan introduced us to a friend of one of the Guns N’ Roses guitarists. When I met him, he cut me off giving me less hope that Champloo can surprise him. I just turned Champloo on, and his 10 minutes shifted to an hour plus. After it, I pitched him the vision of Champloo and how it works. He liked the idea, and he introduced us to Amazon representatives. After getting feedback from Amazon, and having several meetings, we agreed on selling our product on the Amazon platform in the US. Alexa will be built in the US version of Champloo. The price of Champloo is USD 1600.
Who inspires you
My idol is Nujabes, a Japanese DJ who composed a soundtrack for my favorite anime Samurai Champloo. He left a huge legacy after himself in the music industry, especially his music was guiding me during my university time. He is a pioneer of a Lo-Fi genre that’s vastly picked up by students and young adults.
I want my company also to leave a legacy in the music industry. I want music to be more accessible to people.
My friend told me when I was hesitating to leave LG: “You can always find a job that is similar to what you have right now at any time. But if you can achieve your dream – you are going to be happy; if not – you are not losing much. If you never try, you’ll never know”.
If you are ready to do something and not to earn anything out of it – then it’s something that you want to do in your life. You can monetize anything you do as long as you believe in it. If you are lack of knowledge in something, you can always learn it, or ask someone.
I always set a high bar. When I set a high bar, I encourage myself to try my best and reach the highest point I can. We set our own limits. It’s like in Physics, X energy = X impulse. There’s a tendency of people to start something but after a few months or a year, they give up after not seeing any result. If you say it long enough eventually you’re going to reap a harvest.
Have a clear vision, work towards it, you might have sleepless nights but all of the energy you invest now will pay you off in a result you want. If it’s not, with the experience you gained you can easily start another project or revamp your existing one.